The Amherst Island Public School is a small but vital part of the community, providing a fine elementary education for out children. Unfortunately Algonquin, the project developer on the Island, seems to not share the same interest in their education as the people who live there. Their plans call for placing a wind turbine 563 metres from the school.
Here’s where the Ontario Green Energy Act reflects the disregard the Ontario government has for its rural citizens. The 550 metre setback (already inadequate) is defined as to the center of a building. The AIPS isn’t a large building but it certainly is larger than 26 metres, and thus part of the school (a corner of the gym) is within the 550 metre setback, not to mention a large part of the playground behind the school. The red dot in the clickable picture below shows where the 550-metre setback is, while the red pushpin shows where Algonquin has placed the “receptor”, number 557.
Please just consider how cold and impersonal it is to reduce a passel of kids and teachers to just receptor #557. It is this kind of verbal gymnastics that reduces even children to objects that are no longer important.
A small group (of which I was one) went to the Loyalist Township planner, Murray Beckel, with our concerns. Our purpose wasn’t to encourage the Council to intervene to move the turbine – the GEA has effectively neutered the Council as well as allowed Algonquin to place the turbine this close to the school. The provincial government, on the other hand, could force the movement but to date that government has shown no inclination to do anything to protect rural residents. We saw no reason to waste our time there.
We had three things to discuss. (1) Confirmation that our measurements were correct; (2) to express our concern that the learning environment inside the school will almost certainly degrade; and (3) point out the non-trivial risks the kids and teachers were being subjected to.
We did get confirmation when Beckel used their mapping tools to calculate the distances involved. Below is the township’s picture – it is essentially identical to ours.
We won’t know for sure until the project is into operation if it will introduce noise into the school. We think the odds are very high that it will, and it is well established that noisy schools produce lower-achieving students. Our question to Beckel: if the noise becomes a distraction, what recourse will the school have? The quick answer appears to be: none. The parents do have a recourse – pull their kids out of the school, with predictable consequences for the school.
In addition to the noise, there’s the risk from being predominantly downwind from a large industrial machine, one that is 100 metres up in the air and is documented to throw blade shrapnel a great deal further than 550 metres. If I had a child in that school I’m not sure what I’d be doing about their continued attendance in it. Sure, the odds of a disaster aren’t great, but neither are they trivial. Blade failures do happen.
This entire project makes no sense to us, even from Algonquin’s perspective. This one turbine makes even less sense, if that is possible. None of us can believe that any organization composed of presumably thinking human beings would place a turbine that close and upwind of an elementary school. I am thinking it must be sacrificial, to be eliminated at a chosen time so Algonquin can demonstrate their sensitivity to “local concerns” blah blah. I may be quite the cynic, but I think it is well justified. The fact that it made it into the draft plan at all and now the revised draft plan shows how little they really care about the locals, and in this case even the locals’ children. Truly shameful.